Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

DURBAN - The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said on Monday it was "deeply concerned" about reports of burglary and vandalism at the Reuben Birin Special School for the Hearing Impaired in Port Elizabeth over the past week. 

"The vandalism of this school impacts negatively on the realisation of the right to access basic education for 140 children with disabilities. The right to education is a fundamental right protected by section 29 of the South African Constitution. Accordingly, fundamental human rights cannot be denied to anyone, regardless of their disability," said the commission via an emailed statement. 

Because human rights were indivisible, interrelated and interdependent, said the commission, such occurrences were inextricably tied to violations of other basic rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, such as the right to an environment that was not harmful to health and well-being.

"The Commission welcomes the reports of investigations by the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Eastern Cape Department of Education (ECDE) of the crimes committed at the school that are already underway. However, in the interest of promoting the best interests of the affected children, the Commission urges the department to make adequate arrangements to ensure that the temporary closure of the school does not further derail the learning process and impede the curriculum and educational progression during the year." 

The commission had seen "a significant increase in the number of cases involving the safety and security of special schools", said the statement, and condemned any attacks on schools, especially conduct that resulted in the destruction of school property and threatened the safety, security and right to life of learners at any schools, particularly special schools. 

"The SAHRC calls on all relevant stakeholders to collaborate in ensuring that the rights of this extremely vulnerable sector of our society are protected.  The SAHRC will continue to monitor this situation closely to ensure that all affected learners receive the necessary support and assistance."

 African News Agency (ANA)